Up-market US chain Williams-Sonoma is forecasting a dip in sales of between 2% and 4% this year, in what it describes as one of the most challenging economic environments in recent times.

Williams-Sonoma braced for fall in sales

Up-market US chain Williams-Sonoma is forecasting a dip in sales of between 2% and 4% this year, in what it describes as one of the most challenging economic environments in recent times.
“We are approaching 2008 with a high level of caution and a view to preserve flexibility in our business plans,” said company chairman and ceo Howard Lester.

He said the retailer would be concentrating on four key initiatives: capitalising on the success of its 2007 growth strategies, including the revitalisation of the Pottery Barn business; driving growth in core brands through improved direct marketing and e-commerce; identifying expansion opportunities for the West Elm business; and continuing to drive operation efficiencies in its furniture supply chains.

Williams-Sonoma is also planning to add around 8% of sales area by opening 29 new stores and expanding or refurbishing another 20.

In the company’s 2007 financial year, overall net revenue increased 5.8% to $3.945b, with like-for-like sales up just 0.3%. Like-for-like sales at the Williams-Sonoma stores were up 0.7%, but down 0.3% at Pottery Barn and 1.5% at Pottery Barn Kids, while outlet store sales grew 5.8%.

Overall fourth quarter net revenue was up 9.5% to $1.374b, with like-for-like sales down 0.1%. Williams-Sonoma store sales grew 1.1%, but Pottery Barn sales were down 1.5% and Pottery Barn Kids down 2.4%; outlet stores were up 4.4%.

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